More than £150m wasted

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Will we ever know how much the Digital Region disaster cost?

The taxpayer funded project to install more than 600 miles of fibre optic cables across the county cost £92m.

And when the Government announced it was pulling the plug on the project last year, the then business minister Michael Fallon said he thought it would cost about £60m to shut down and and break contracts.

So perhaps £150m of taxpayers’ cash.

But a year on and the true figure is still unavailable.

A spokeswoman for the department for Business Innovation and Skills said: “Final costs are not yet known, and won’t be until Digital Region Limited is formally wound up next year. All parties are trying to keep costs as low as possible.

“Matters regarding sale of the infrastructure are a matter for DRL and those for future broadband schemes are a matter for the Department of Culture Media and Sport.”

The scheme received a £27m grant from the European Union.

The BIS spokeswoman said half would have to be repaid.

She added: “The European Structural Funding is a grant of £27m. £13.5m will be returned to the Managing Authority, for reinvestment in new projects. This will be funded by the DRL shareholders in proportion to their shareholding.”

The original shareholders were South Yorkshire’s four councils and development agency Yorkshire Forward, which BIS inherited when YF was abolished.

Meanwhile the fibre optic cables have been sold for an undisclosed sum.

DRL has entered into an agreement with Geo Networks Ltd, which was recently acquired by Zayo Group in the US.

Zayo has said it will decommission the street cabinets - which provided cheap connections to homes and businesses - and provide high-bandwidth fibre services to businesses and datacentres in South Yorkshire.